I spent six years trying to get, and stay, pregnant. I went through seven IVF cycles. I had five miscarriages. Putting it that way, it sounds crazy. Why would any sane person go to such extremes to have a baby? And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result, does that mean I was nuts?
Looking back at everything I went through, it does seem a bit insane. But in the moment, it wasn't. It started as one problem to solve, one IVF cycle. Then it turned out there was another problem to solve, then another. Every cycle was going to be the cycle, the one that fixed the issue we didn't know about before. Hope is a strange sort of addiction, and the habit is hard to break.
For me, adoption required giving up more emotionally -- not only my genetics, but my biological urge as a woman to grow a life inside of me. Just like anyone else trying to conceive, I wanted to do what I believed women's bodies are created to do: become pregnant and bear children. But as time went on and cycle after cycle ended in failure, I wondered if it was time to move on, and started asking myself what were we doing this for.
My husband and I had spent so much time, energy and money on cycling. We had grown apart from friends who had had kids. I was an emotional wreck who couldn't stand any reminders of babies or children -- and those reminders were everywhere. Clearly, something was wrong with my body that it couldn't sustain a pregnancy. But all the miscarriages were different; because they didn't fit a pattern, no doctor could say what was ultimately causing them. And no doctor ever told me that I could not carry a baby.
But eventually, all our treatment options had been extinguished. I had to decide what I wanted: to be pregnant or to be a mother. We had two frozen embryos which we would use in a "closure cycle" while we prepared to pursue adoption. I grieved the likelihood that I would never experience a baby growing inside me, never feel kicks, never give birth.
We pulled out all the stops for our frozen cycle. I went on a gluten and dairy-free diet to reduce my inflammatory response. I took Prednisone for three months, which puffed me up and made me gain weight, for the same purpose. I took blood thinners for my clotting disorders. I continued the acupuncture that I had done for the past several years.
Once again, the pregnancy test was positive. But my second hormone "beta" level hardly rose at all, an indication of an early miscarriage. Resigned to the end of my fertility, I emailed the adoption agency we'd chosen to tell them we were on board. I had more blood tests to make sure the levels went down.
But they didn't. They continued to double. No one could explain why the second test hadn't risen -- a vanishing twin, in which both embryos implant but only one keeps growing, was a possibility. In any case, my ultrasound showed a baby with a heartbeat, and he became our son.
I know I would have been a mom even if I had not been pregnant, but that was a dream I had a very hard time relinquishing. Another woman might have chosen to move on sooner, and I wouldn't have blamed her. But in the midst of everything, it always seemed that if we just fixed this issue, if we just solved that problem, things would work out. And eventually they did.
Some might say I was desperate or crazy, but it's easy to dismiss those who are going through treatments -- why didn't I "just adopt"? There's a grieving process that goes along with the end of your fertility. My case was difficult, unique and rare, but no doctor ever told me it was hopeless. So I kept going. Was that the "right" decision? The thing is, there is no one right decision when you're in a situation that is all wrong. Remember that before judging someone stuck in the hell of infertility.
This is National Infertility Awareness Week. Tina Donvito is the former editor-in-chief of Twist magazine, now a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom. Her parenting writing has recently appeared in Fit Pregnancy, Scary Mommy and Mamalode. A version of this post originally appeared on her blog, foggymommy.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.